The term “turo-turo” refers to an eatery where one needs only to point to the displayed food items to place an order. One therefore dispenses with a menu and makes things far simpler. The root word, of course, is “turo” meaning to point with a finger, though it is said, and I agree, that some Filipinos prefer to point with their pursed lips. Strangely enough, this lip pointing practice holds true in many situations, but it seems, rarely with food, mainly because in turo-turo places, one gets far too close to the food (though occasionally separated by the glass case or the cover of the food container) to need to use the lips.
Vivian’s started out as a tapsilog place. Tapsilog from the contracted term “tapa, sinangag at itlog” describing the main items of the meal, preserved beef, fried day old rice and egg, usually fried.
Tapa is from the Spanish word, “tapas” meaning appetizers, usually beef, pork or sausage. In this country, tapa refers to an inexpensive cut of meat soaked and cured in sugar, vinegar, spices and preservative. Originally intended as a method to allow beef or carabao beef to be stored for long periods, the tapa we know now is a much evolved version from the original which were usually salty and soaked in “salitre” a nitrogen based preservative that is historically important for having provided the explosive component in rioters’ dirty bombs called Molotov cocktails.
Now, the sweet/sour/savory version is made with prime cuts of beef, such as sirloin and in most cases, the made without the explosives.
Vivian’s made her name in the tapsilog business by providing hers in clean fastfood style. Located in Project 2 in Quezon City in a side street fronting NCBA, (which is on Aurora Blvd). Her tapa was also cheap and delicious (though sweetish) as she intended to provide the food for students of the nearby college. But one can’t really keep great food a secret and soon, business was so good, Ms. Vivien has expanded her original tiny eatery into a more spacious one, but still in the same place. She also became a household name in tapsilog, inspiring many copycats in the city.
Now her resto serves food turo-turo style and is open twenty four hours. But she has other dishes worth coming back for, in particular, the lechon kawali, which though sitting in the food display for hours, showed no sign of degradation or oiliness. It remained sinfully crisp, deceptively light and oh so bad for your heart – the fat was crisp throughout, but not hard and perfectly rendered. It was almost of bagnet quality, but not quite as cholesterol laden.
For those looking for a good clean turo-turo, open twenty four hours with a few parking slots and some kubos that have karaoke, this place is for you. But don’t pass on the lechon kawali, which is a must taste at least once in what will probably be a short life.